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December 18th, 2012
States nervous about new Common Core curriculum standards
The standards are designed to be more rigorous and to encourage deeper critical thinking skills—but implementing them poses a challenge
Several months before Utah pulled out, its state Senate passed a resolution urging the State Board of Education to reconsider its adoption of the Common Core curriculum standards.
“My initial concern with the Common Core was the level of influence and control that would eventually come from the federal government,” says state Sen. Aaron Osmond, who introduced the resolution. “Utah is a very conservative state; we’re very concerned about what is taught in our schools.”
Osmond since has revised his view somewhat and says he sees value in making it easier for states to compare academic performance and for students to move between states without falling behind.
However, he still believes Utah was right to leave the testing consortium, because now that it’s less invested in developing one of the tests, it can be freer in deciding which of several Common Core tests to adopt. And while his position on the standards has softened, Osmond anticipates that there will still be several bills introduced in the state’s next legislative session objecting to implementation of the Common Core.
There’s been concern elsewhere about how the Common Core state standards will affect what teachers teach. Ideally, the new standards would be implemented with extensive professional development for teachers, but there wasn’t funding to support that in Kentucky—the education department worked to establish networks of teachers to train each other—and funding has been scarce in many other states still recovering from the recession.
Recently, English teachers have expressed concern about the push for more non-fiction, including government documents, in the curriculum. Ideally, that reading would be pushed across all subjects, including science and social studies classes.
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In practice, though, English teachers across the country have reported that they’ve borne the brunt of the new emphasis on nonfiction, according to the Washington Post, in some cases sacrificing units on poetry to make room for the new material.
But David Coleman, president of the College Board and one of the creators of the English standards, emphasizes that it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Fiction remains at the center of the language arts classroom,” he said, speaking at Bush’s education conference.
Coleman emphasized that schools will control how the Common Core curriculum is implemented, and how teachers teach it.
“Standards do not educate children, localities do,” he said. “If you have a common standard, what’s exciting is that you have lots of different ways to get there.”
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